Special legislative session to address Hawaii Supreme Court ruling on felony charging seen as unlikely

  • GEORGE F. LEE / 2020

    Associate Justice Todd Eddins wrote the majority ruling in State v. Obrero.

A special session of the Hawaii state Legislature is unlikely in the wake of a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that a grand jury’s decision not to indict a criminal suspect cannot be avoided by prosecutors seeking alternatives to charging major felonies like murder.

County prosecutors are urging the governor and state lawmakers to remedy the Sept. 8 decision, arguing that hundreds of felony cases statewide will have to re-charged via a grand jury. Failure to complete that process in a timely fashion could lead to suspects being released into the community, prosecutors say.

“The Senate has been working diligently to address the concerns of county prosecutors regarding the potential impacts raised by the Hawaii Supreme Court’s opinion in State v. Obrero. While we’ve attempted to work with the House, the Judiciary and the county prosecutors to find a way forward, we’ve received no indication from the House, following their caucus yesterday, that their chamber has the 2/3 majority needed to convene a special session,” said Senate President Ron Kouchi, in a statement. “Furthermore, with the governor’s recent statement on Wednesday saying that he will not call the Legislature back to address this issue, it does not seem that a special legislative session will occur at this time.”

Gov. David Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he’s been talking with Legislative leaders about how they want to proceed.

“Any new legislation would be prospective only, so I don’t see the sense of urgency to try to implement a change. Until we have consensus on what changes would be necessary, I believe it’s premature to talk about a special session,” said Ige.

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